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Transformers BinalTech

While rival companies such as Bandai successfully exploited the proven nostalgist's market in the late 90's and early 00's, Takara either failed to recognize the market or failed to assemble a plan to adequately deal with it until relatively late in the game. A remarkable effort was made to revive the popular Microman toy line with Microman 99, but real success wasn't achieved until Takara fully abandoned the child oriented product in 2003, and concentrated exclusively on the hobbyist with the Micro Force and Material Force lines.

There was also a potential market to be tapped with the evergreen Transformers franchise. While Takara did eventually offer reproductions from their classic "Generation 1" line, first in the form of high priced exclusives, then covering the mass market, mere reproductions were not advancing the bar nor keeping stride with Bandai's flagship Soul of Chogokin line.

Takara was nevertheless on the verge of shattering their status quo. In 2003, Takara released their Masterpiece Convoy, a foot tall, fully modernized, and freshly realized take on the popular G1 Convoy character. The re-envisioned Convoy was as well-executed, if not better than, Bandai's flagship line, and won praise from the market.

Released simultaneously was the new Smokescreen, the first member of the BinalTech line. Suddenly, Takara proved they were in the game to play, and capable of playing well.

The BinalTech Series

BinalTech likely represents the "soul of" its Diaclone Car Robots forebearer moreso than Bandai's brand represents the essence of vintage chogokin. The most distinguishing qualities of Car Robot are carried forward in a larger form factor and implemented with current technology. Specifically, BinalTech robots replicate the design of popular cars, licensed in conjunction with major auto makers. Their robot transformations are directly inspired by their Car Robot ancestors, incorporating major chunks of the original car's design signature in key visual locations on a humanoid body.

The prototypical elements of the Car Robot aesthetic include a chest formed from a car's nose, tires on the shoulders, doors for "wings", and feet formed from a rear bumper. A comical and simplistic visual may be implied, but the reality is mature, sophisticated, and relevant.

Not content to merely ape the past, BinalTech advances the "soul" vibe as larger size, higher retail price, and more advanced tech allows. Automobile worship drives the mojo here, with a measure of refinement borrowed from the world of scale model cars. Unlike the vintage toys, BinalTech faithfully reproduces the car's interior, and features opening doors, hoods, and trunks, detailed engine parts, and faux linked steering. The dual nature of the design is so well honed that non-initiates are often recognize nothing more than an ordinary diecast model car.

The car-centric nature of the line, and the essential nature of the Diaclone homage, somewhat restrict the available design latitude, yet the toy artists have shown great capacity to work feats of creativity into their craft. Challenges of design are met with unique and inspired solutions, and superfluous yet brilliant design flourishes abound.

Despite the above praise, BinalTech's critical contribution to the genre is not good design, but good vision. Many projects have attempted to place an echo of the past in the context of today's design and consumer environment, but few have realized the vision like BinalTech, the unexpected surprise of 2003.

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